By Amy Levner, Manager, Housing and Mobility Options, AARP Education & Outreach
Have high energy costs gotten you down? You could blame the price of electricity or heating fuel, but high energy bills are more commonly due to inefficient systems or components in your home, such as leaky windows, loose duct installation, or faulty heating or cooling equipment.
You don’t have to choose between your wallet and your comfort. Below are easy tips for reducing your energy costs and saving money, while you save the planet!
1. Use Heat-Generating Appliances During Cooler Hours of the Day.
Use machines such as washers, dryers, or ovens during the morning or evening when it’s cooler. This reduces the load on your air conditioner in the summer and helps heat the house in the winter.
2. Turn off Lights in Unoccupied Rooms.
Also, don’t forget to switch off the kitchen and bathroom ventilating fans after they’ve done their job. If left on, ventilating fans can quickly remove a home’s heated or cooled air, which will cost you more money on energy bills.
3. Lower the Temperature on Your Water Heater.
Lower your water heater’s temperature to 120 degrees to trim down water heating costs. Some manufacturers pre-set water heater thermostats to 140 degrees, although most households require only a temperature of 120 degrees. You can save between 3-5 percent in energy costs for each 10 degree drop in water temperature. Reducing your water temperature also slows mineral buildup and corrosion in your water heater and pipes, which can help your water heater last longer and operate at its maximum efficiency.
4. Run Washer and Dishwasher Only When You Have a Full Load.
Even if you run the machines with a small load, it is still using the same amount of water and energy as if you had a full load. So, load up! In addition, use the cold water setting of your clothes washer, when possible. This will not only save you money on water and energy bills, but will also help preserve the efficiency of your appliances.
5. Clean Your Dryer’s Vent System.
Lint buildup can cause the dryer to run longer to dry your clothes, which wastes energy and costs you more money. Even worse, lint buildup in the vent can lead to a fire.
6. Lower Your Thermostat at Night.
Sleep under extra blankets or a comforter during cooler months. Lowering your thermostat by just one degree can reduce energy use by 3 percent. So put an extra blanket on your bed, lower your thermostat at night, and save some money!
7. Remove Window Air-Conditioning Units.
When the summer is over, remove the A/C units to prevent heat from escaping. If the unit can’t be moved, put a cover over it to prevent drafts and keep your rooms as toasty as can be.
Unplug chargers such as phone, flashlight, small appliance, and toy chargers when not in use. Chargers and basic appliances consume energy even when they are turned off or left in “sleep” mode. Some estimates show that 10 percent of monthly energy use is a result of this “phantom” use.
9. Insulate Exposed Hot-Water Pipes.
Without insulation, your house’s hot water pipes transfer heat too quickly. Even if the water left the heater at 105 degrees, this heat loss would mean the water would barely be lukewarm 15 minutes later. Encased pipes cut down the amount of time your water takes to heat up, and save money on your water bill.
10. Shut Fireplace Dampers.
When the temperature starts to fall, shut your dampers to prevent heated air from escaping up through the chimney when the fireplace is not in use, keeping warm air inside the house and lowering your heating bills.
Amy Levner is the Manager of Housing and Mobility Options at AARP. She leads the Association’s educational and outreach efforts related to housing options, including universal design and living in place, as well as broader mobility options, including expanding transportation choices for older Americans.